Articles of Volume 6, Issue 1

Geopolitical Strategy And Class Hegemony: Towards A Historical Materialist Foreign Policy Analysis

Bastiaan van Apeldoorn


This article seeks to lay the groundwork for a historical materialist
foreign policy analysis. Although there is a huge Marxist literature on
especially US imperialism, there is little in the way of systematic
empirical research on foreign policy-making from this perspective. Most
contributions in this tradition, including more recent ones in the debate
on the “new imperialism” are often rather abstract exercises in grand
theory – important and insightful but not necessarily directly amenable to
empirical research. On the other hand, the radical empirical studies of
(US) foreign policy-making that we do have often tend to suffer from a
lack of adequate theorization. Seeking to bridge this gap this article
first critically reviews the current (and expanding) historical
materialist literature on geopolitics (and its link to global capitalism)
and then seeks to move beyond that by offering an analytical framework
that can be applied to actual empirical research. A theoretical point of
departure is that what Harvey identifies as the territorial and capitalist
logics of powers are dialectically and hence internally related. But
whereas many historical materialists would agree on this abstract notion,
the question, however, is not only why but also how (in practice) they are
thus related, and how we can thus study the effects of this internal
relation. For this, I argue, we need to go beyond positing any abstract
logic(s), and analyse the concrete agency of social forces constituting
the link between state and capital. I argue that class is the crucial
mediating force here and the missing link in much of the literature. A
focus on class and class strategy provides us with a basis for a
systematic empirical analysis of the concrete processes through which
geopolitical strategies of (major) capitalist states are formulated and

Keywords: Historical Materialist IR, Geopolitics and Social Structure,
Capitalist Geopolitics, Class and Geopolitics, Ruling Class Security

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